Summer has been generous with her bounty. Perhaps too generous. About a week back a friend came into possession of a crate of peaches. I eagerly agreed to take a dozen or so of the amber and russet colored gems off of her hands. And what better use of such a bounty of fruit than a jam to enjoy months down the road when summer's generosity is a fleeting memory to warm us through six months of cold and snow.
I had never made jam before. Nor had I attempted water bath canning. My food preservation is limited to a jar of crock pickles I made several years ago. However, my grandmother made a killer plum jam and I am bound and determined to honor her memory by honing my canning and jarring skills.
I made two variations of peach jam using the 12 peaches I was bequeathed. The first was a Spicy Peach with Thai Bird Eye Peppers. The second was a Ginger Peach. The basis of both are the same. I lacked pectin, so the end result is a tad runnier than most jam. While they may not be firm enough for toast or scones, to date these jams have been perfect for fillings, glazes, and sauces.
adapted from the guidelines and instructions at The National Center for Home Presesrvation
each variation makes approximately 7 half pint jars
6-8 medium peaches (about 6 cups when diced)
4- 4 1/2 cups sugar
2 Tbsp lemon juice
for Peach with Thai chili
2-3 bird's eye chilies, seeded and finely chopped
for Ginger Peach
3 Tbsp fresh ginger, finely minced
Wash and rinse the peaches thoroughly. Do not soak. Remove stems, skins, and pits from fruit; cut into pieces and crush. Measure crushed fruit into large saucepan. Add sugar, lemon juice and flavoring of choice (ginger or peppers).
Over medium high heat, bring to a boil while stirring constantly. Continue to boil until mixture thickens. Continue to boil until the mixture reaches 220. Test the jam's consistency by spooning a little onto a cold saucer and chill for a few minutes in the fridge. If adequately set it should wrinkle and feel firm.
Remove saucepan from heat and skim off any foam. Fill sterile jars with jam, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Gently stir to remove air bubbles, wipe rims of jars clean and top with lids, screwing them finger tight (not TOO tight). Submerge filled jars in a water bath of boiling water and boil for 5-7 minutes (process times may vary by elevation).
Remove from water bath and allow to cool undisturbed for 12-24 hours.
If properly processed the jam will remain good for several months, though the flavor will diminish after a year.
Had I read up on jam making a little more thoroughly prior to diving in, I would have had pectin on hand before starting the process. The end result would have been far more firm. But this is merely a learning step in the process, and the end result was still absolutely amazing.
The Ginger Peach was far more successful than the Spicy Peach. The fresh ginger completely permeated the jam without overwhelming the peach flavor. It was warm and spicy without the bite that fresh ginger often has.
The spicy peach jam, however, was not so spicy. Thai bird eye chilies are fairly high on the Scoville scale, so I was hesitant to use too many. Either the heat all cooked out as I simmered the jam or they were not the peppers they claimed to be. The little flecks of chili in the jam gave off a very, very subtle after burn (if your palette is clean and finely tuned, any way) but overall it was a bit lackluster. But on the bright side, the peach shown through. What was to be spicy was still wonderfully fruity and sweet.